Metal Roofing Pros and Cons - Everything You Should Know

There are metal roofing pros and cons just like with any material. What's interesting is that although the roofing industry is not short in materials, metal roofs keep growing in popularity. Homeowners eager to install a durable and long-lasting material without compromising the appeal find metal an ideal choice. And the options are not confined in one metal either. When we are talking about metal roofs, we don't refer to one specific product but an array of different metals. And if this sounds good to you, wait till you read the advantages of metal roofs which clearly outnumber the disadvantages. So, here are the pros and cons of metal roofing for you to read, compare, and decide if they meet your needs.

metal-roofing-pros-and-cons

Image credit: Adam Currie

Metal roofing pros and cons

When your mind goes to metal roofs, you most likely think of tin roofing or aluminum. The truth is that there is a variety of materials. There is not only one metal that is used for the construction of roofs. And although there is not a vast difference between the pros and cons of metal roofing options, it's worth knowing what's available out there and both the advantages and disadvantages of each metal. 

Copper

The paradox with copper is that it's one of the most long-lasting metals although it is soft. It's very attractive thanks to the natural green-blue patina formed after ten or fifteen years and which provides an extra barrier against elements. The patina provides extra protection to the material, which can actually last over 100 years. In spite of the great benefits of copper, it's not the most popular metal. Why? Because it's very expensive. On top of that, it will be dented in a hailstorm and won't work well in conjunction with other materials. How so? As it patinates, the water runoff will stain the other materials and thus cause their premature damage.

copper-roof-and-wall-cladding

Image credit: Filip Dujardin

Aluminum

It's one of the most popular metal roofs since it has a fair price tag and is long-lasting. It's the best choice for coastal homes since aluminum is highly resistant to salt, moisture, and water. It's lightweight and 90% - 95% made of recycled materials, usually beverage cans. So, it's environmentally friendly but easy to dent, especially in areas prone to hailstorms.

aluminum-metal-roof

Image credit: Dreamstime

Steel

Due to its lower cost, steel is broadly used for roof construction. It's very durable and thus ideal for high wind regions. The main drawback of steel is corrosion. But don't worry. There is a solution. Steel is treated to remain resistant over the years. And so, you have three choices when it comes to steel roofs.

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Image credit: SteelMaster Buildings

  • Galvalume steel is what you get when steel is coated with zinc and aluminum. The material becomes highly resistant to elements but not to scratches. The latter is known as tension-bend cracking and might compromise the rust-resistance of the material. 
  • Galvanized steel is made when the material is coated with zinc. Due to its excellent corrosion resistance performance, it's the most popular metal roofing type. 
  • Weathering steel is the material, whose outer layer is intentionally left to rust so that it will protect the inner layer. But this process is not the best choice for residential roofs unless you want an accent roof. On top of that, it requires more maintenance. 

Zinc

It's an element perfect for all applications due to its high resistance to corrosion and durability. It will last over 60 years and can be easily formed in any shape for any roof design. The drawback? It's expensive.

zinc-roofing

Image credit: The Architectural Roofing Company (TARC)

Tin

It's also an element and was one of the first metals ever used for the construction of roofs. But it's rare and not as beautiful as its counterparts. Nowadays, it's hardly used as roofing in the construction industry.

colored-tin-metal-roof

Image credit: Savvy Controls

Metal Roofing Benefits

Energy Efficiency

One of the greatest advantages of metal roofs is money saving. Expect a reduction of annual energy costs by at least 25%. How is this possible? Instead of absorbing heat, metal reflects it and thus keep it from affecting the indoor temperatures. What does that mean to you? Limited use of the AC unit and still a cool indoor environment. 

Durability, Longevity, and ROI

Metal roofing demonstrates high performance in the harshest weather conditions. So, if you are wondering if metal is one of the best roofing materials for regions which experience hailstorms, snowfall, and rainfall, you bet it is! Metal sheds water and snow fast, protecting the home from water damage. 

But beware! Leaks often occur due to ice dams. Although metal keeps ice from building-up, improper attic ventilation and insulation will still enable the formation of ice dams. Why? With inadequate attic insulation and ventilation, hot air will melt the snow and the water will run at the eaves where it will re-freeze. Our advice? Make sure your attic is properly ventilated and insulated. 

On top of that, with a 140 mph wind rating, metal roofs protect homes during hurricanes. 

And that's not all! Although not all metal roofs are the same, the most popular ones are resistant to corrosion, mildew, fire, rot, split, warp, and insects. 

So, what have we established here? Metal roofs are very durable and thus long-lasting. Actually, these are the main reasons why most homeowners invest in this roof material. With proper metal roofing installation, expect a life expectancy of approximately 50 to 70 years or even more. This will save you money down the road and increase the value of the house. In real terms? Metal roofs provide the higher return on investment recouping about 85% of costs since potential buyers know they won't have to re-roof any time soon. 

Environmental Benefits

Most metal roofs are partially made of recycled materials and are recyclable themselves. This means that old metal roofs, which are replaced, do not end up at landfills. They are used again and again without losing their durability either. Since this is a lightweight material, it can cover existing roofs without burdening the environment with extra waste. It needs minimum resources for its manufacturing and no petroleum by-products – two facts that come to the defense of metal roofs being one of the greenest options. 

Heat Conduction

Let's begin with the basics: what is heat conduction? Heat is conducted from one source to another. Simply put, it's when you put your hand on the hot stove burner and immediately feel the heat. So, when it comes to your metal roof, it will not transfer solar heat to your home since it will release it back to the atmosphere. Hence, you will save money.

Fire Resistance

With a Class A fire rating, metal roofs are highly resistant to fires. This property makes them ideal for areas prone to wildfires. As a non-combustible material, metal will protect your home. But remember that the fire resistance of your roof will also depend on whether or not there is another material under the metal. If, for example, you install metal roofing over wood shingles, you won't have the same protection. 

Low Weight

Metal is lightweight. It usually weighs around 45 to 150 pounds/100 sq. ft. Here's the point. If you decide to install it over an existing roof, it will not add extra weight to the structure. It also makes installation so much easier and faster. 

Style Options

There is no shortage of style choices. If you love traditional roof types but want the advantage metals provide, you have options. On the other hand, if you are a fan of modern architecture and would prefer a contemporary style, there is an array of fresh looks to complement your home’s curb appeal and design

So, which are the most popular metal roofing styles?

  • Standing seam: It is the most popular metal roofing type. It's contemporary, unique, and works well with all home styles. The panel width for the average size residential roof is about 12 inches.  

standing-seam-metal-roofing-style

Image credit: USA Home Solutions

  • Metal shingles: They are made to mimic asphalt or wood shingles. They are also more textured than the real thing and come in several dimensions.

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Image credit: Custom Exteriors LLC.

  • Metal shakes: They are designed to imitate wood shakes and preferred for the long-lasting performance and the distinctive appearance. 

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Image credit: Classic Metal Roofing Systems

  • Metal tiles: They mimic clay tiles in an S or barrel shape. They are usually large panels with exposed fasteners and come with the advantage of fewer seams. 

metal-tile-roofing-style

Image credit: MyLifeInc

  • Metal slate: Their appearance mimics the natural slate and has the advantage of the lower price and lighter weight. 

metal-slate-roofing-style

Image credit: Koukuujinja

  • Metal sheet: Metal sheet roofs are available in many profiles, ranging from corrugated, face-fastened, R panel, 5V crimp and more. They are large sheets of various lengths and widths that overlap, have exposed fasteners, and cost less than other metal roofs but are not as beautiful and long-lasting as other metal roof types. 

metal-sheet-roofing-style

Image credit: Memphite

Cocktail of Colors

One would think that metal roofs lack color. Scratch that out! As a matter of fact, there are more color options than any other roof material. To speak with numbers, there are 100 hues. To make a wild guess, these would most likely cover your home’s architectural requirements!

colorful-metal-roof-house

Image credit: Fasanen

Easy to Adapt

Metal is easy to bend, manufacture, and can fit any roof type. Whether you have low or high pitched roofs with arched or rounded sections, this material is adaptable to all shapes and designs. 

Metal Roofing Drawbacks

Noise

The sound of rain on a metal roof might feel like listening to the Fiddler on the Roof but to most people this noise would be a torture, especially if there is a hailstorm. To reduce the drum effect, insulate the roof during installation. This will enhance the energy efficiency too. The bad news is that this will increase the cost. 

Denting

Some metal roofs are more prone to damage than others. Copper and aluminum are softer and thus susceptible to dents should you have a repairman stepping on the roof. Dents are also created during heavy hailstorms or when large tree branches fall on the roof. But don't despair just yet! To eliminate the possibility of denting, get thicker and stronger metal materials.

Cost

The upfront cost is high. Metal roof prices range from one to nine hundred dollars per square feet based on the product you choose. The most expensive metals are zinc and copper starting from $900 just for the material. If you opt for steel roofs, you need to protect the material with galvanic coating and this will cost extra. On the other hand, galvalume and galvanized steel are already coated while zinc, copper, and aluminum do not need a coating to be resistant. So, it all comes down to which metal you select. Overall, they are more expensive than other roof materials. 

Nevertheless, the higher initial cost is compensated by the metal roofing longevity. Since they last two or three times more than their counterparts, you won't have to replace the roof any time soon. 

What's more? Due to the pros of metal roofs, some insurance companies reward their customers with discounts. So, you save money here too. And don't forget that they will increase the resale value of your home. The bottom line is that metal roofs have a high initial cost but they are totally worth the extra buck even if you don't plan to live in this house forever.  

Expansion & Contraction 

With temperature fluctuations, metal expands and contracts. This is not good news since the roof might get loose. This problem might raise some concerns regarding safety not to mention that part of your house will be roofless should the panel moves. But let's not make things tragic! Expansion & contraction is normal when it comes to metal. All it takes to avoid problems stemming from this natural reaction to elements is proper installation during which the roofer must place special fasteners. That's all! 

Modifications

Let's assume you want to replace a damaged part of your metal roof. It will be rather difficult since most of them come out in large panels. In other words, you will have to replace a large roof section and this will cost you more. On top of that, you might not find the exact match to your existing roof type, style, and color. Since metal roofs last long and the current means enable fast growth and many changes in the industry, chances are you might be faced with a problem years later when your roofing type is no longer available in the market. 

Maintenance & Care

For starters, metal roofs are nearly maintenance free due to their high resistance to elements, insects, rot etc. You will only need to tighten the fasteners – if any – every ten years or so. But some painted roofs can chip, peel, or fade. Some roofs might become dented and thus require repairs. The bad news is that it's difficult to do any roof repairs without the risk causing more damage to the material that cannot be walked on. On the good side though, most vendors provide thirty years guarantee and the truth is that if you hire expert roofers, they will know how to approach without causing more damage. This won't be their first time. 

Lightning Conduction 

Metal conducts electricity. That's true. But if you are wondering if a metal roof will attract lightning, it won't. The possibility of a lightning strike is as possible with metal roofs as with any other roofing material. Did you know that lightning mostly strikes tall trees? That's because it finds the tallest peak to strike. But if it makes you feel any better, metal roofs can be grounded. And don't forget that metal is non-combustible and so the risks are further reduced. 

Metal Roofing Facts

  • Nearly a million homeowners in the USA alone have already invested in metal roofs. They are not solutions for commercial applications only anymore. 
  • Metal roofs provide energy efficiency in warm and cold climates. 
  • Not only do they shed snow easily, but you can place snow guards to keep snow from falling on pedestrians and entrances. 
  • You can place solar panels on metal roofs. 
  • The noise of the raindrop is eliminated with the installation of a metal roof over solid sheathing. 
  • You can have a one-of-a-kind metal roof thanks to the multiple colors and styles. 
  • The oldest aluminum roof was installed in Australia in 1880 and is still standing.
  • Metal roofs are vertical or interlocking systems. 
  • With Hi-R coatings, you are able to further reduce heat gain and thus save money. What is this special coating? It's a paint made to protect military vehicles from infrared detection during the Desert Storm. 
  • With the installation of synthetic underlayment instead of felt paper, you protect even more your home from water leaks.  

Summary

This is the point where you put two and two together and decide whether or not metal roofs are a good choice for you. The growing number of homeowners investing in this material says something on its own. And then, it's clear that the advantages of metal roofs outnumber the disadvantages. Talking about the drawbacks, don't let them discourage you! When there is a solution to a problem, it ceases to be a problem. And the truth is that all metal roofing downsides have a solution or two. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to your own choices, climate, budget, and taste. All you need to do is weigh the metal roofing pros and cons and just know that every decision you make will be an informed one.
 

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